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Although approximately 1 in 5 customers rely on online reviews when making purchasing decisions, a survey by Clutch, DC-based ratings and reviews firm, revealed that 81% do not actually write reviews themselves.

This paradox puts businesses in a bind. Customers want the best of both worlds: to read reviews without contributing any themselves.

To address this gap, E-commerce businesses should focus on two distinct conversion goals:

  • Driving sales conversions
  • Converting customers into reviewers

One popular method for achieving this goal is to offer small incentives in exchange for reviews. But before you begin handing out incentives to customers, make sure that your strategy complies with rules outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The most important rule to follow is that any reviews that are incentivized must be clearly disclosed. This could be as simple as a line of text or a small badge outlining the promotion behind the review, whether it’s entry into a contest or a coupon.

Additionally, incentives must be provided regardless of whether the review is positive or negative.

With those key rules in mind, let’s explore three common incentives companies can offer to persuade customers to provide a review.

Tip 1: Offer a Future Discount
Discounts are the most obvious incentive businesses can offer in exchange for reviews. Not only are businesses already adept at determining and offering discounts and other deals, but customers are already comfortable with collecting and applying coupons when making online purchases.

There are two options for offering a discount as an incentive for reviews: a cash amount or a percentage-based discount.

Like every discount, businesses should calculate how to set an appropriate amount to ensure that they are still making an adequate profit. Some questions to consider include:

  • Will the discount be applied to a single item or the entire order?
  • Will all items on your website be eligible for discounts, or will only certain items (such as non-sale items) be eligible?
  • Will customers need to apply the discount within a certain time frame?

Coupons or discounts are a simple incentive that most businesses are already well equipped to offer.

Tip 2: Add a Bonus to Their Next Order
Native, an all-natural deodorant company based in San Francisco, has a clever strategy for encouraging customers to refer new customers. After a customer makes a purchase, they provide a unique code to customers to share with family and friends.

If a friend or family member makes a purchase using that referral code, Native will add a free travel-size deodorant to the original customer’s next order. In addition to engaging new audiences through word-of-mouth referrals, Native entices existing customers to come back and shop again.

Companies can learn from this example and apply some key lessons to gathering online reviews. By offering a small sample or add-on as an incentive for writing an online review, you have the opportunity to introduce customers to a product they might not have otherwise ordered.

Additionally, by requiring customers to make a future purchase in order to redeem the sample, you can encourage them to return to your E-commerce site again.

Tip 3: Enter Reviewers in a Contest
E-commerce businesses can also enter reviewers in a contest or sweepstakes as an incentive for writing reviews.

Contests can be as simple or elaborate as a business would like. Some major companies might offer a $1,000 shopping spree or an all-expenses-paid trip to an exotic location, but smaller companies will likely find that their customers would be just as happy with a drawing to receive a free item or gift card.

For example, Nordstrom offered a promotion in which customers could be entered into a sweepstake in exchange for a review. Like all ethical and legal incentives, Nordstrom makes sure to clearly mark that an incentive was offered in exchange for this review.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Offering Incentives
As E-commerce businesses seek online reviews for their products, they face the tough challenge of persuading busy customers to share their reflections. For some shoppers, an incentive would be enough to convince them to write a review.

Before offering an incentive, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons, as well as the legal and ethical guidelines. Some experts warn that the risks aren’t worth the benefits and businesses shouldn’t offer incentives at all.

However, by offering incentives equally regardless of whether a review is positive or negative and by clearly marking reviews that are gathered in exchange for an incentive, companies can try offering incentives without straying outside the law.

Before offering an incentive, just make sure to compare your planned incentive to the FTC’s guidelines, and you will be able to move forward with your review-gathering plans confidently.

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Michelle DelgadoMichelle DelgadoMichelle Delgado is a Content Developer & Marketer at Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm based in Washington DC. She reports on web design and website builder software.View all posts by Michelle Delgado